Being the world’s youngest chess grandmaster “opens doors”, says Misha Friedman in The New York Times. Grandmasters are a dime a dozen but being the youngest secures prestige. Sergei Karjakin, born in Crimea, was 12 in 2002 when he assumed the title that even world champions such as Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen didn’t achieve. He held it for 18 years, losing the title last June. Karjakin’s face was plastered across Moscow billboards and he appeared on the most popular talk shows. Companies paid thousands to sponsor him, with one firm putting up $300,000. When Vladimir Putin later invited him to his residence, his first question was: “You became a grandmaster at 12, didn’t you?” “Yes,” Karjakin said. “I was the youngest.”
But becoming a young chess champion in Russia is a racket. Pushy parents and coaches spent $1,000 a pop getting their would-be wonderkids into key tournaments. Suggestions of bungs are rife. Allegations that Karjakin’s opponents at his key tournament were either pressurised or paid off to help him win the title of youngest grandmaster have been firmly denied by him. “I believe it is possible that if I went to the effort, I think I could get my dog a grandmaster’s title,” said Nigel Short, the vice president of chess’s governing body.
The refugees heading to the Olympics
Under a neutral Olympic flag, the Syrian boxer Wessam Salamana, 35, will be fighting “for all refugees” in Japan, says David Rose in The Times. The official refugee team of 29 includes athletes who have fled Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Eritrea. They all have official refugee status and will compete in 12 sports. Other Syrians in the team include cyclist Ahmad Wais, swimmers Yusra Mardini and Alaa Maso, and badminton player Aram Mahmoud.